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Article published at MonroeNews.com on Nov 21, 2009 Woman charged in heroin death enters plea
A woman who authorities say supplied heroin to a Monroe man who later died of an overdose has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and avoided trial that was scheduled to begin Monday.
Teisha Wandt, 23, could have faced life in prison if she had been convicted of delivery of a controlled substance causing death, a relatively new law that was created to deter drug dealing. She was the first person in Monroe County to be prosecuted with the crime, which was established in 2006.
But on Friday Ms. Wandt pleaded guilty to delivery of less than 50 grams of heroin, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jack Simms said there is no sentence agreement and the amount of time Ms. Wandt will serve will be up to the judge.
He said he was comfortable leaving the decision of Ms. Wandt’s fate in the judge’s hands especially involving the unpredictability of a jury’s decision.
"We will reach a fair result," Mr. Simms said.
The victim in the case is Jake Zubkoff, a 22-year-old Monroe man who died of a drug overdose last Nov. 16. During testimony in July, it was said in court that Ms. Wandt came to the victim’s home and delivered heroin. Minutes later he collapsed.
Mr. Zubkoff’s mother, Sandra Vaneeckhoutte, testified in court that her son purchased two packets of heroin for $20. She said on the stand during a preliminary examination that he melted the drug over the stove and injected it. Moments later he pleaded for her help and collapsed.
On Friday Ms. Vaneeckhoutte said she was not happy with the plea agreement and is certain Ms. Wandt is the one who supplied the drugs that killed her son.
"I really wanted us to go to trial," she said. "I’m not happy with it at all. I’m the one who lost my son. This was an open-and-shut case. She was here and then he was dead."
But Mr. Zubkoff’s father, Bob Zubkoff, said he doesn’t believe Ms. Wandt should spend the rest of her life in prison. He said he would like to see the system help her turn her life around and away from drug dealing. But he added that the responsibility of drug use fell to his son.
"She didn’t put it in his arm but she did put it in his hand," Mr. Zubkoff said. "I think she should be punished for what she did. But she’s still young. She has her whole life ahead of her."
Mr. Simms said the difficulty in the case was trying to convince a jury that that particular heroin was what killed Mr. Zubkoff. He said there were other substances in Mr. Zubkoff’s system, including methadone.
Jarod M. Calkins, the Monroe attorney representing Ms. Wandt, said his client believes she did not supply the lethal dose of the drug. "She believes strongly that she did not provide the heroin that killed Jake Zubkoff," Mr. Calkins said. "She accepts the current circumstances."
Part of the agreement stipulates that Judge LaBeau must remain within the sentencing guidelines that will be determined by circuit court probation. There are between 20 and 25 different factors when determining guidelines including one that relates to causing injury or death to the victim.
That is a key factor in the case and certainly will be challenged by Mr. Calkins if Ms. Wandt is given a high score in that category: The higher the score of the guidelines, the higher number of potential years in prison.
Either way Mr. Calkins said Ms. Wandt is remorseful for Mr. Zubkoff’s death.
"She lost a close friend," he said. "It’s not something she’s cold-hearted about."
Sentencing has been set for 1:15 p.m. Jan. 7. While Ms. Vaneeckhoutte preferred a trial, Mr. Zubkoff said he is comfortable allowing the judge to make the decision.
"I’m going to put it in the hands of the judge," Mr. Zubkoff said. "I believe he will be fair."